Your guide to the Oneworld airline alliance

From points and perks to partners and more, here’s what you need to know about the Oneworld Alliance.

By Staff Writers, July 5 2023
Your guide to the Oneworld airline alliance

Oneworld may not be the largest of the global airline alliances, but it is the default choice for most Australians with Qantas, Cathay Pacific and Qatar Airways among its worldwide stable.

The roster currently stands at 13 member airlines – plus an additional Oneworld Connect partner – though this will increase to 14 when Oman Air is welcomed into the fold in 2024. Combined, the airlines wings span 900 airports across 170 countries and territories.

In a nutshell, the alliance is about streamlining frequent flyer benefits such as lounge access and baggage allowances, as well as making connections more seamless when travelling across the airlines.

Here’s how it works.

Who are the Oneworld member airlines?

At the time of writing there are 13 full Oneworld member airlines, joined by the alliance's first Oneworld Connect partner, and a collection of affiliates peppered on top.

Here's a list of the full Oneworld member airlines, and those that soon will be:

  • Alaska Airlines (based in the US)
  • American Airlines (based in the US)
  • British Airways (based in the UK)
  • Cathay Pacific (based in Hong Kong)
  • Finnair (based in Finland)
  • Iberia (based in Spain)
  • Japan Airlines (based in Japan)
  • Malaysia Airlines (based in Malaysia)
  • Oman Air (based in Oman)
  • Qantas (based in Australia)
  • Qatar Airways (based in Qatar)
  • Royal Air Maroc (based in Morocco)
  • Royal Jordanian (based in Jordan)
  • SriLankan Airlines (based in Sri Lanka)

Fiji Airways is the alliance’s first and indeed only Oneworld Connect member: a concept we’ll explore later in this guide.

By virtue of their Oneworld or Oneworld Connect membership, all of the above-listed carriers are Qantas partner airlines. The Red Roo also maintains partnerships with airlines outside the alliance, such as China Eastern and Emirates – but these are separate to Qantas’ Oneworld affiliations.

Who are the Oneworld member affiliate airlines?

Affiliate members of Oneworld are typically regional arms or offshoots of the alliance’s full members. In most cases, standard Oneworld benefits apply when travelling on an affiliate member, in the same way as when travelling with a full Oneworld alliance airline.

Current Oneworld affiliate airlines include:

  • Horizon Air and SkyWest Airlines (affiliated with Alaska Airlines)
  • American Eagle (affiliated with American Airlines)
  • BA Cityflyer and Sun-Air (affiliated with British Airways)
  • Nordic Regional Airlines (affiliated with Finnair)
  • Iberia Express and Iberia Regional Air Nostrum (affiliated with Iberia)
  • J-Air, Hokkaido Air System, Japan Air Commuter and Japan Transocean Air (affiliated with Japan Airlines)
  • QantasLink (affiliated with Qantas)
  • Royal Air Maroc Express (affiliated with Royal Air Maroc)

However, just because an airline is owned and operated by a full Oneworld member doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll be an Oneworld affiliate. For example, while the Qantas Group owns Jetstar and Jetstar Asia, those aren’t considered as Oneworld affiliates.

What are the Oneworld frequent flyer tiers?

Each airline operates its own frequent flyer program, which would be a nightmare to navigate if you had to join them separately. This is where Oneworld comes in.

The alliance offers three standardised tiers, allowing travellers to enjoy the same or similar benefits from one airline to another. These are Oneworld Ruby, Oneworld Sapphire and Oneworld Emerald.

Here’s how the status tiers of several popular frequent flyer programs align with the Oneworld levels:

Program / Oneworld Tier Oneworld Ruby Oneworld Sapphire Oneworld Emerald
Qantas Frequent Flyer Silver Gold Platinum, Platinum One
American Airlines AAdvantage Gold Platinum Platinum Pro, Executive Platinum, ConciergeKey
Alaska AIrlines Milage Plan MVP MVP Gold MVP Gold 75K, MVP Gold 100K
British Airways Executive Club Bronze Silver Gold, Premier
Cathay Pacific Cathay Silver Gold Diamond, Diamond Plus, Diamond Invitation
Finnair Plus Silver Gold Platinun, Platinum Lumo
Japan Airlines Mileage Bank Crystal Global Club Crystal, Sapphire Global Club Premier, Diamond
Qatar Airways Privilege Club Silver Gold Platinum

To see how the tiers align for other member airlines, head to the Oneworld website and choose your airline from the drop-down menu on the homepage.

Oneworld status is automatically awarded when reaching the equivalent status tier with your main airline.

For example, if you reach Qantas Platinum membership, you’ll also be a Oneworld Emerald frequent flyer for the duration of your Platinum membership.

Beyond the core benefits of your status when flying with Qantas and its other partners, you’ll also enjoy many of those same key benefits when flying with all other Oneworld member airlines, in any class of travel.

The colour of the gemstone(s) under the Oneworld logo is a handy way to see which benefits apply to you at that airport.
The colour of the gemstone(s) under the Oneworld logo is a handy way to see which benefits apply to you at that airport.

Oneworld Alliance status tiers and benefits

Benefits of Oneworld Ruby

Oneworld Ruby is the ‘silver’-level tier for emerging frequent flyers. In practice, it offers a few time-saving benefits to get you started, but lacks the prized perks of the higher tiers.

These frequent flyers have access to business class priority check-in counters across the Oneworld alliance, as well as improved seat selection choices where airlines offer this benefit, and priority over non-frequent flyers when on flight waitlists or travelling standby.

Benefits of Oneworld Sapphire

Oneworld Sapphire is the ‘gold’-level tier for frequent flyers, often considered the sweet spot of the three, as it’s your ticket to airport lounge access and more.

In addition to the Ruby benefits above, Oneworld Sapphire grants access to most Oneworld airline business class lounges before eligible flights, plus priority boarding and luggage handling.

There are exceptions though, such as Qatar Airways’ Premium Lounges, which are only for passengers travelling in business or first class. However, access to an alternative lounge remains available in these instances.

Baggage allowances are boosted as well, although this depends on the airline you’re travelling with and the default baggage allowance already included with your ticket.

In some instances, you’ll be able to pack a heavier suitcase or travel with an extra bag, but if your baggage allowance was already generous, you may not see much improvement.

British Airways' Boeing 787 Club Suite.
British Airways' Boeing 787 Club Suite.

Benefits of Oneworld Emerald

For true high flyers, Oneworld Emerald is the card to hold. It grants some privileges normally reserved for first class passengers when flying with Oneworld member airlines, even if you're seated back in economy.

This starts with access to first class check-in counters and first class lounges, if available. Additional 'Fast Track' processing means you can zip through the formalities at select airports, while your luggage similarly gets the priority treatment.

Baggage allowances are increased by 20kg across the board under weight-based limits, or by one additional bag for ‘piece’ allowances. 

You’ll also get the plum pick of seats that may not be available to other travellers before online check-in opens.

Oneworld Emerald status is the key to first class lounge access before any flights, even in economy or business class.
Oneworld Emerald status is the key to first class lounge access before any flights, even in economy or business class.

As always, there are a few exceptions to be aware of. Once again, this includes Qatar Airways’ various Premium Lounges around the world, which are limited to business and first class ticket holders only.

Similar situations exist with Flagship First Dining facilities in American Airlines lounges, which are reserved solely for AA’s own Flagship First and Flagship Business Plus passengers.

Most airline arrival lounges are also excluded from Oneworld agreements.

Earning and redeeming frequent flyer points in Oneworld

There isn’t a ‘global’ Oneworld rewards program, so you can instead earn frequent flyer points and status credits in your preferred airline program, even when flying on other Oneworld airlines. The same is true when using points.

Earning frequent flyer points across Oneworld

Just because you’re flying with Cathay Pacific, for example, doesn’t mean you need to be a member of Cathay Pacific’s Cathay loyalty program to collect points. You could choose to earn Qantas Points instead.

For example, say you’ve booked a Cathay Pacific business class ticket from Hong Kong to London, and whacked your Qantas Frequent Flyer number into the booking.

Even though you’re not flying with Qantas, or indeed to or from Australia, you could still earn 7,400 Qantas Points plus 120 status credits from the one-way flight. Exceptions always apply, and you may need to dig deep to find them. 

Business class onboard a Cathay Pacific A350.
Business class onboard a Cathay Pacific A350.

Some fare types may not earn frequent flyer points and status credits with any airline, while others may only earn these with some airlines.

This is common when booking flights in economy class, particularly on the less-flexible and more affordable ticket types.

Upgrading flights with frequent flyer points across Oneworld

Although first planned for 2020 – and then delayed on several other occasions – Oneworld is expected its much-anticipated alliance-wide upgrade system in the near future.

This initiative will see travellers able to use their points in the loyalty program of any airline in the Oneworld family to upgrade into premium economy, business class or first class on any other airline across the group.

However, don’t expect all the upgrade privileges from “your” airline to be extended to the other airlines. Instead, expect a more ‘Star Alliance’ style upgrade system, where you’ll be required to book a full fare ticket prior to requesting the upgrade – which would be subject to availability.

Using frequent flyer points for flights across Oneworld

Frequent flyer points earned in a Oneworld member airline’s own program can also be used to book reward flights on any other Oneworld airline, in any available cabin class.

For example, you can earn Qantas Points in Australia, and then use those points to book flights on the other Oneworld member and affiliate airlines, such as British Airways and Cathay Pacific.

What is Oneworld Connect?

Oneworld Connect is a relatively new membership system for smaller airlines to become attached to the alliance in a limited capacity, and offer select benefits to all Oneworld frequent flyers.

It’s similar to the Star Alliance 'Connecting Partners' concept, for those familiar with Oneworld’s largest rival.

Candidates for Oneworld Connect must be sponsored by Oneworld full member airlines, and passengers of those sponsoring airlines will get a wider breadth of perks when flying the Oneworld Connect partner.

Fiji Airways in Oneworld Connect

Currently, the only Oneworld Connect member is Fiji Airways, sponsored by American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific and Qantas.

On those Fiji Airways flights, Oneworld Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald members receive priority check-in, with Sapphires and Emeralds also entitled to priority boarding.

But frequent flyers with status from those four sponsoring airlines will get even more benefits when flying Fiji Airways, such as the ability to earn and redeem points, earn status credits, through-check tickets and luggage between connecting flights, and access to select lounges worldwide.

To see how the lounge access rules differ in this case, head to the Fiji Airways Oneworld Connect page and check your frequent flyer membership type under ‘Lounge Access’.

Oneworld members enjoy many of the same benefits on Oneworld Connect airline Fiji Airways.
Oneworld members enjoy many of the same benefits on Oneworld Connect airline Fiji Airways.

Are there Oneworld Alliance lounges?

Oneworld does not yet operate any of its own lounges, unlike SkyTeam and Star Alliance.

However this is set to change in the future with the opening of Oneworld-branded lounges at key airports which several Oneworld airlines fly to and from, but where no Oneworld member is actually based.

A range of possible locations for Oneworld lounges have been rumoured over recent years, including Paris, Berlin Brandenburg airport, Seoul and Sao Paulo.

Which loyalty program is better for obtaining Oneworld Emerald status?

While in most cases you’d likely want to go for your home country airline – since it’s the one you’ll fly with more frequently – it’s always smart to evaluate the options that other airlines offer before picking the one to go with.

If you travel on a mix of Oneworld airlines, however, Alaska Airlines and British Airways offer the easiest qualification criteria for obtaining Oneworld Emerald status.

American Airlines - AAdvantage

02 Jun 2019

Total posts 18

One World in some airports does have common lounges.   AT LAX there is the Qantas, Cathay, and BA lounges operated by the airlines together.   AT JFK with all the OW airlines using AA Terminal 8 all use the new lounges there.    In cities like Tokyo  Haneda, Sydney and Hong Kong OW airlines use the excellent lounges of the hub airline. 

AT Heathrow's Terminal 3 each OW airline seems to have their own lounge but Cathay's seem to the most popular.

03 Mar 2023

Total posts 6

I'm a OneWorld slave and Gold FF member with Finnair.  I think it's a great option for Australians flying to Europe.  Prices on Finnair business class are usually half what Qantas charges and Finnair business class is just as good as Qantas, if not better.  I've personally found it much easier to use Finnair FF points on upgrades and flights than Qantas, and much, much better value.  I just wish there was a OneWorld Credit Card in Australia, similar to the HSBC Star Credit Card.  I would then divert all my points to Finnair rather than Qantas.  Cathay Pacific is also a great choice for Australian OneWorld flyers.  I have heard rumours that China Southern may join OneWorld - any news on that?

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